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Workplace harassment: Everyone is equal before the law

A news article titled “School orgy prank costs leads to hefty compensation payout” recently caught my attention. When I read that the article was about a person who was the victim of sexual harassment at work, I can’t say I was surprised. Unfortunately, this type of story is one we’ve all heard before.

Sexual harassment in the workplace is as common-place as it is unacceptable.

What did stand out about the article was a fact revealed in the third line, stating that the person, a cleaner, was male.

The fact is that while we regularly hear about claims of sexual harassment made by females, those made by males are still somewhat of an anomaly. Clearly this is not because such harassment never occurs.

It was interesting to note that in response to the article some members of the public expressed their opinion that this person, simply because of his gender shouldn’t have taken offence to such so called pranks and should “harden up”.

Our culture dictates that men, when confronted with sexual harassment should be strong enough to be able to deal with it and move on. Such a culture is archaic and unhelpful. It only serves to reinforce the humiliation, insult and offence that the individual involved already feels because of the harassment.

In Queensland, sexual harassment is defined by the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 as unsolicited physical intimacy, any unsolicited demand or request for sexual favours, a remark with a sexual connotation or any other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature that is directed toward another person.

Such behaviour must also be found to be done with either the intent to offend, humiliate or intimidate the other person, or occur “in circumstances where a reasonable person would have anticipated the possibility that the other person would be offended, humiliated or intimidated by the conduct.”

This particular case highlights an important point: these laws do not discriminate on the basis of gender.

Increasingly companies and businesses are spending significant time and money on educating staff regarding appropriate workplace behaviour. Unfortunately, some people still fail to realise that deciding if your behaviour is harassment, is not based on whether you would feel offended by the behaviour, but whether a reasonable person would have.

Regardless of whether you are male or female you have a right to feel safe in the workplace.

If you have been subjected to unwelcome or offensive behaviour, regardless of whether it is sexual in nature, seek legal advice about your rights.

Remember, everyone is equal before the law.

Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: February 12, 2017.

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